Marketing for a Cause: One Pair of Shoes at a Time

Whether or not you know what cause marketing is, there is a good chance that you have participated in it in one way or another.  Since cause marketing is the collaboration of a company with a specific organization or cause, which is something that many brands participate in, we have decided to focus on one particular well known company that uses this tactic. The specific brand that many people, maybe even you, have supported through cause marketing is TOMS.  TOMS is a shoe company that provides a pair of shoes to a child in need around the world every time that a pair is purchased.


The idea of TOMS shoes came about when founder, Blake Mycoskie, visited Argentina and discovered children within the village were walking around barefoot. Determined to help, Mycoskie created the campaign “One for One,” that would “match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need.” The company has had outstanding success, becoming nationally appraised and known for their good deeds. According to their website, TOMS has given 10 million pairs of shoes spanning over 60 countries. A motivating factor behind the TOMS brand is their demonstration of corporate responsibility through their desire to help others in need.

The Theory of Reasoned Action makes a good connection with TOMS and cause marketing because it states that attitude drives intention which overall drives the desired behavior. The Theory of Reasoned Action also states that, “If the outcome seems beneficial to the individual, he or she may then intend to or actually participate in a particular behavior.” TOMS’ mission drives consumers to have a positive attitude towards the brand and an inclination to purchase their products because the outcome is helping children in need.  Peer groups, friends, family, role models, and celebrities also play an active role in influencing consumers to participate in a desired behavior. Consumers who have a positive attitude about a celebrity that advocates TOMS may in turn have a positive attitude about TOMS, which will increase their intention and actual behavior of purchasing their products.
What are some other instances where you have seen companies and brands use cause marketing to sell their products?  Do you think people’s motivation to purchase TOMS shoes is more for the fashion statement and to look like a good person or to genuinely donate?

-Aaron Love, Kara Zimmerman, Rachel Clay, Rebecca Hobbs

7 thoughts on “Marketing for a Cause: One Pair of Shoes at a Time

  1. I think that for most individuals in America, the decision to purchase TOMS is to stay culturally, and fashionably relevant. TOMS became a fashion trend, and helping people became a cultural trend. Honestly, I don’t really care why people choose to purchase the brand, I am simply glad that it is successful and helpful to so many people in need.

  2. I think Cause marketing is a great idea for any company or brand in order to build a positive image. What TOMS does is no different and has built a huge following. I do not personally own a pair but very few of my female friends could say the same. I think the cause they supported created the initial popularity the brand experienced but i do think that plays a part in the continued success. As long as TOMS continues to donate “one for one” I hope that the fashion trend continues regardless of if the buyers are buying them to fit in or not.

  3. I first heard about TOMS in 2008. I saw a guy at a show wearing some of their shoes and liked the pattern and style of them, so I asked him where he bought them. He kindly said thanks and told me the website. I forgot to look them up and didn’t see the shoes again for another year or so. That was when I realized the shoes were a lot more than a fashion statement. Originally I would have purchased TOMS shoes just because I liked the way they looked, but the fact that buying the shoes are apart of the “one for one” system and another pair goes to someone in need made me want to buy a pair even more. Cause marketing is a great idea, and I hope more companies follow their lead.

  4. TOMS’ “one for one” trademark is extremely effective in capturing the customers attention because the purchase of a pair of shoes is resulting in a child in need getting a nice comfy pair of TOMS. As for whether or not people are buying TOMS because they think it is a “fashion statement” I think people will continue to buy TOMS because they like the way they look but are also keeping in mind what a good thing they are doing by purchasing the pair of shoes.

  5. As sad as it is to admit, I think most people buy them because of the way they look and not for what they are profiting for. I believe now a days, people are selfish. The question is always “What is in it for me?” not “What can I do to help you?” Yes, I do believe cause marketing is a great thing, but I don’t believe it is working for the right reasons. It does give a better name to brands, I just don’t think people will purchase something if they don’t like it or find it useful. I’m not saying everyone is like that, but I do think this is still a problem.

  6. TOMS’ use of cause marketing has proven to be very successful. People truly love these shoes not only for their look, but because there is a sense of gratification after purchasing a pair. It makes people feel less guilty for spending $60+ on a pair of shoes that won’t last that long. At the store I work at we sell TOMS sunglasses, which gives an impoverished child prescription glasses, sight-saving surgery, or medical treatment each time a pair of these sunglasses is sold. Consumers like buying products that help those in need, especially when the consumers doesn’t have to do anything but purchase the item.

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